Festival race trains filling up fast
01 January 2004
Bookings for the special trains from Toddington to the Cheltenham Festival, 16th to 18th March 2004, are coming in thick and fast. Organised by specialist racing event management company Racing Tours, over two-thirds of the packages are now sold out.
Tickets are now only available for the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday and the Champion Chase on Wednesday. Apart from train travel to and from Toddington, the Racing Tours package includes entry badge, full on-course entertainment and tote in a private facility on the Champions Drive, as well as talks by top jockeys Richard Johnson and Warren Marston.
Says Racing Tours’ James Colling, ”People who went ’by rail to the races’ on the GWR last year started booking their places for the 2004 event almost immediately. Word of their success spread fast and we quickly sold out for Thursday’s Gold Cup. We’ve had so many comments about how easy it is to park at Toddington and travel to the races in style - especially as the station is within the racecourse grounds. Our guests particularly enjoyed jumping the endless Festival traffic queues - especially after the day’s racing has finished.”
The special trains for the 2003 Festival were the first to use Cheltenham Racecourse Station since the last special to call there in 1976 - just months before the Cheltenham to Stratford line closed. And it was 38 years since the last race train hauled by a steam locomotive!
Racing Tours also organised a special train from Paddington to Evesham for race-goers and this, too, is fully booked. On its way to Evesham, the train will pass Honeybourne Junction, which used to connect with the line now being re-built by the GWR.
With one eye firmly fixed on the future, James Colling says: ”We dream of the day when we can run trains from London direct to the races, leaving the main line at Honeybourne to take the GWR’s line to Cheltenham.”
But that prospect is still a long way off. Comments the GWR’s Commercial Director, Ian Crowder; ”It’s true that our sights are set on a five-mile northward expansion from Toddington to Broadway and work towards that goal will start this year. But Honeybourne and a possible main line connection is another four miles beyond Broadway - but it is an exciting prospect!”
Tickets can only be booked through Racing Tours on 01749 841 591 or by visiting www.racingtours.co.uk.
Racing Tours has provided invaluable support for the GWR. It helped complete the new platform-level station building at Cheltenham Race Course station while it is also assisting with construction of a new signal-box there. New signalling will allow more trains to use the station.